Russian Federation pension protests: Police break up opposition rallies

Russian Federation pension protests: Police break up opposition rallies

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Activists say Russian police have detained some 300 protesters after thousands turned out in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere to protest plans to raise the pension age.

The protests were organised by supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is under administrative arrest for organising an unsanctioned rally in the capital in January.

"In this situation, the authorities are interested in suppressing turnout a bit and making sure only "their" electorate shows up and votes the way they are supposed to", Stanislav Andreichuk, an elections analyst with the independent Golos election-monitoring group, told RFE/RL. Moscow and the Siberian city of Omsk saw 36 and 32 detentions, respectively, the group said.

The opposition leader is barred from state TV and was stopped from running against Mr Putin for president earlier this year, and had planned to lead the fresh protest in Moscow.

"Putin and his government have plundered the budget for the past 18 years", Mr Navalny's team said in a pre-protest statement.

"Police are brutally crushing the protesters, even teenagers and elders, about a hundred arrested", Echo Moskvy reported on the rally in St. Petersburg.


About 2,500 people ignored police warnings to disperse and stood on Pushkin Square, a stone's throw from the Kremlin, shouting: "Putin is a thief", and "We are the power here!"

Despite the nature of the protest, many of those who took part were young.

Putin promised in 2005 never to raise the age for Russians to receive a pension, but Russia is facing a crisis, and President Putin seems not to have other alternatives.

"For the first time in history, the company has satisfied the illegal demands of Russian authorities and has taken down from YouTube the paid ads promoting the rally against pensions reform", said Leonid Volkov, a close partner of the opposition leader, on the social media.

The government unveiled the deeply unpopular plan in June, announcing that from next year, the retirement age for men will rise from 60 to 65 and from 55 to 63 for women. The average life expectancy in the country is 66 for men and 77 for women.

In the far eastern city of Khabarovsk and in the Primorye, Khakasia and Vladimir regions, gubernatorial elections will go to a second round after United Russia candidates failed to win 50 percent of the vote.

On Tuesday, Russia also warned Google against "meddling" in local elections by hosting Navalny's videos calling for mass protests.

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